Fulling Cloth in Settsu Province
From the series From the series Six Jewel Rivers of Various Provinces, 1857
Color woodblock print (nishiki-e)
Gift of Louis W. Hill, Jr. P.78.64.34
Cat. no. 265
In this moonlit scene, two women soften cloth by pounding it with wooden mallets. The full moon, migrating geese, and pampas grass ripe with seed indicate that the season is autumn and link the image to a poem by the 12th-century nobleman Minamoto no Toshiyori.
The sound of the wind
in pine trees,
combined with the pounding of silk,
deepens the autumnal melancholy
of a village by the Tama River
Pictorial and literary imagery of women fulling cloth has a long history. Traditionally, farm women undertook this task at night and during the winter season, when they had fewer chores. The act of fulling cloth first became a metaphor for loneliness in ancient China. The Chinese poet Li Bo (701–62) described women fulling cloth far into the night when their husbands were away on military campaigns.